Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs were in a league of their own Friday night. Or at least in a different league than the Minnesota Vikings, whose starters -- granted not everyone played -- again fell flat and made minimal impact in the 28-25 preseason-finale loss.
Vikings starters played three series on offense and had a field goal to show for their lackadaisical efforts. The first group finished the preseason without a touchdown in six possessions -- hardly anything to get jazzed about but also not very telling because key guys were purposely held out.
The focus now turns to finalizing the 53-man roster, which must be official by Tuesday.
With offensive stars Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen playing few or no snaps at all in the preseason, some lesser-known players seized the stage and shined. The same can be said of Friday night’s defensive performance -- Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks, Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith were sorely missed -- though it served as a prime example of Minnesota’s youth being overmatched and underprepared for an opponent as opportunistic as the Chiefs.
Kansas City’s command can be summed up by the show Mahomes put on in two series: He completed eight of nine passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns, one being a beautiful bucket-drop in the end zone to Tyreek Hill, who blew past former teammate Bashaud Breeland.
For the final time this year, here’s a closer review of how the Vikings fared in preseason action:
PLAYER OF THE GAME
You’ve been introduced but have you really appreciated “The Kentucky Rose”? The rookie running back is a two-time Under Further Review Player of the Game and deserves every bit of the limelight he’ll likely receive for no longer than a few days. A.J. Rose was an afterthought of the 2021 NFL draft -- he signed a free-agent deal after finishing his Kentucky career ranked 10th on the school’s all-time rushing list -- and he was bound to be forgotten sooner or later, buried on the Vikings’ initial depth chart. But after another standout performance, Rose might have played his way into future earnings in the National Football League. He scored the Vikings’ first and second -- and only -- offensive touchdowns in the preseason Friday night, averaging a healthy 6.8 yards per carry. He looked quick and confident -- we wouldn’t be shocked by Rose’s success elsewhere if he fails to stick on Minnesota’s practice squad. He’s obviously equipped to play in this league but that doesn’t change he’ll have a hard time cracking the Vikings’ 53.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
That’s what K.J. Osborn probably is thinking. The second-year receiver will fall way back in the pecking order once Cook, Jefferson and Thielen return to their normal roles. Whether Osborn did enough in three exhibition games -- he turned 11 targets into seven receptions for 110 yards -- to warrant WR3 snaps in the regular season is, well for a lack of a better term, debatable. He did however catch the attention of everyone at Arrowhead Stadium and those watching on “the tube” in the third quarter Friday night when he dragged his toes to reel in a 19-yard throw from Kellen Mond. The toe-drag swag moment was a high point for Osborn this preseason and frankly a top highlight for Minny’s offense.
Your dad ever say “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while”? We’re not seriously comparing cornerback Parry Nickerson to a blind squirrel, but his fourth-quarter house call Friday night definitely would have gotten that reaction from pops had it happened anywhere other than an NFL stadium. Nickerson intercepted Chiefs rookie Shane Buechele and returned it 10 yards for maybe the simplest pick-six recorded. Why did it jog our memory about a phrase dads sometimes use in front of friends as a means to embarrass? Well, for starters, Nickerson wasn’t in the vicinity of the intended target. He was slow getting out of his backpedal — late to recognize that trips receivers to his side were all running quick-game routes — and in a clean pocket, Buechele grossly overthrew a five-yard slant. Nickerson gets the credit for a defensive touchdown but really has luck to thank … just like a blind squirrel.
2 – Minnesota’s third-down conversions Friday night. The Vikings moved the chains twice in 14 tries. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that egregious efficiency won’t fly in the regular season. Games are won and lost, and seasons are made on third down. For what it’s worth -- yes, we’re pointing it out but don’t overthink it -- remember it’s the preseason -- Minnesota converted nine of 40 total third-down opportunities in its three exhibition games. Oof.
THEY SAID IT
“I feel like we’re going to be pretty good but you’ve still got to go and prove it.” -- head coach Mike Zimmer
“It’s tough to say how many because I think you’re looking at guys from other teams, too. You’re trying to figure out if this guy is better than a guy we have on our team.” -- Zimmer on the number of roster spots up for grabs
“Irv [Smith] did a great job separating versus man coverage. We did a good job running the football that drive, I thought, as well … To get down there and move the football the way we did was real positive.” -- quarterback Kirk Cousins on the team’s first offensive possession, which netted 10 plays, 67 yards and three points
“We have a great rapport with our coaches … [We] really like the plan and feel good about our unit.” -- Cousins on overall comfort level
“I think we definitely have a chance to be the most explosive running football team in the league.” -- tight end Irv Smith
“I think it’s going to be very scary, honestly.” -- Smith on how the offense will look at full force
Mark your calendars, folks, we better not have to tell you again (but surely we will anyways): Week 1 of the regular season on the road against Cincinnati. The Vikings will try to spoil Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s reemergence Sept. 12 at 12 p.m. For Minnesota fans eager to attend a game at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikes return home after a two-week road trip to host Seattle on Sept. 26.